What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer that’s detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland— has a better chance of successful treatment.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
- frequent urges to urinate, including at night
- difficulty commencing and maintaining urination
- blood in the urine
- painful urination and, less commonly, ejaculation
- difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection may be difficult
Early Stage Treatments
- Watchful waiting or monitoring: PSA blood levels are regularly checked, but there is no immediate action. The risk of side-effects sometimes outweighs the need for immediate treatment for this slow-developing cancer.
- Radical prostatectomy: The prostate is surgically removed. Traditional surgery requires a hospital stay of up to 10 days, with a recovery time of up to 3 months. Robotic keyhole surgery involves a shorter hospitalization and recovery period, but it can be more expensive. Patients should speak to their insurer about coverage.
- Brachytherapy: Radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate to deliver targeted radiation treatment.
- Conformal radiation therapy: Radiation beams are shaped so that the region where they overlap is as close to the same shape as the organ or region that requires treatment. This minimizes healthy tissue exposure to radiation.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy: Beams with variable intensity are used. This is an advanced form of conformal radiation therapy.
In the early stages, patients may receive radiation therapy combined with hormone therapy for 4 to 6 months.
Treatment recommendations depend on individual cases. The patient should discuss all available options with their urologist or oncologist.
Advanced Stage Treatments
Advanced cancer is more aggressive and will have spread further throughout the body.
- Chemotherapy may be recommended, as it can kill cancer cells around the body.
- Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), or androgen suppression therapy, is a hormone treatment that reduces the effect of androgen. Androgens are male hormones that can stimulate cancer growth. ADT can slow down and even stop cancer growth by reducing androgen levels.
The patient will likely need long-term hormone therapy.
Even if the hormone therapy stops working after a while, there may be other options. Participation in clinical trials is one option that a patient may wish to discuss with the doctor.
Radical prostatectomy is not currently an option for advanced cases, as it does not treat the cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.